Compound may block HIV infection

By | March 6, 2009

Researchers have identified a cheap, commonly-used compound that, applied vaginally, can stop monkeys being infected with a primate version of HIV.

HIVThe discovery, by the University of Minnesota, raises hopes of a similar microbicidal treatment to block HIV transmission in humans.

Several microbicides have been tested, but results have been disappointing.

The study – focusing on a compound called glycerol monolaurate (GML) – is published online by the journal Nature.

GML is a naturally occurring compound widely used as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent in food and cosmetics.

Crucially, it is also cheap, and is likely to protect against other sexually transmitted infections too.

Lead researcher Dr Ashley Haase said that if GML proved to be effective in blocking HIV it could potentially help to save millions of lives.

A majority of cases of HIV worldwide are now contracted vaginally, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the pandemic is at its most intense, women account for nearly 60% of new infections. …

After monkeys are exposed to their version of HIV, known as SIV, T-cells from the immune system rush to the scene to try to fight infection.

However, this is actually counter-productive, as the virus merely uses these cells as fuel to aid its expansion throughout the body.

Therefore, blocking this initial immune response – although it seems counter-intuitive – might actually help to stop infection in its tracks.  …

“What is interesting about glycerol monolaurate is that it’s very cheap and it may protect against a broad spectrum of sexually transmitted infections, not just HIV.

“It also looks like the sort of compound that could be made available over the counter, without the need for a prescription, which can only help uptake of any potential microbicide.”

Genevieve Edwards, of the HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, welcomed the research, but she warned that other precautions should still be taken.

“If we’re able to produce an effective microbicide, it would be a significant step forward in the fight against HIV.

“In the short term, promoting condom use and good sex education are essential to reduce transmission.” via BBC NEWS | Health | Compound may block HIV infection.

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